Commentary: Oakland Hip Hop Artist Young Gully Speaks to Youth Experiences

May 17, 2015

Young Gully. Photo Courtesy of the Eastbay Express.

By Jaron K. Epstein

Jaron K. Epstein

Oakland is internationally recognized for supporting humanitarian causes and opposing police brutality. The city continues to be on the forefront through hip hop artists who are influenced by the area’s rich political history and the often conflicted relationship between young people and Oakland Police Department.

Going back to the period when African Americans began the great migration from the South, Oakland was known as a city that went out of its way to recruit white police officers from southern state, which seemed to ensure that OPD would have a hostile attitude toward the communities they policed.

Young Gully is one rapper who speaks to these issues. After the killing of Oscar Grant by BART police, he began working on an album called The Oscar Grant Project.

This album was collaboration between Young Gully and journalist/photographer Pendarvis Harshaw, who mc’s the album, providing commentary and insight into the conversations taking place on the album for the listeners

This album manages to cut through the obstacles that can make people hesitate to open up to what may be considered a political message. It really poses the question of what makes one political?

Is it your opposition to attacks on your community and loved ones?

One of the songs on the album titled Stereotype deals a heavy question about the created images in American society of Blacks people.

“They tell us that we the ones not using our conscience,” he sings. “They views are preposterous. I guess every Black man fits the shoes of a convict. We all ignorant with nothing to say. I guess I’m just another outspoken brotha up in the way.”

Dr. Amos Wilson wrote and lectured about the created personalities within this society meant to mentally control and condition Black people to being submissive and accepting of being trapped within a caste system in this country.

One aspect of this is that more Black men are in prison or under police supervision today than were enslaved in 1850, according to Michelle Alexander. In her book, “The New Jim Crow,” she details the point made by Dr. Wilson about how Black people are living in a created caste system in this country.

Young Gully, playing the devil’s advocate, pushes the listener to question the presumptions often made about Black people spread through television and the media.

“Black people won’t make it they can’t survive,” he says. “They treat us like animals. If another one of us drop, what would it matter for? They playing tricks on our mind like it’s a magic show. And the media love to carry the hype. I’m a dumb brotha – I guess I fit the stereotype.”

The young generations coming up are fed up with the status quo and are refusing to be complicit in the oppression of Blacks through economic exploitation and the use of police intimidation and violence.

Hip-hop today has been corporatized, and the goal of much of it is to spread ideas of hate and violence to youth today. Deviating from this particular agenda is viewed as a threat.

This may be a reason why a number of people involved in music believe that the police, based in New York City, allegedly have a hip hop police task force that monitors hip hop artists for their political work and ideas.